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December 2006
by Laurie Daniel
Sustainable Ag Expo
Congressman Sam Farr and A.G. Kawamura, Secretary, CDFA, spoke with CCVT executive director Kris O' Connor and Jason Resnick, Western Growers' Association.
Sustainable Ag Expo
Kevin Spafford (standing) of Legacy by Design spoke on financial planning for business succession.
Photos: Dave Coronel
With the barrage of news reports about climate change, chemical hazards and agricultural labor shortages, sustainable agriculture is more important than ever for vintners and growers. The second annual Sustainable Ag Expo, presented Nov. 2 and 3 by the Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT) at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, put the topic front and center. Wines & Vines was a sponsor. Visit for an expanded report.

Jim Wolpert
Jim Wolpert, UC Davis extension viticulturist, presented research on vine balance and fruit thinning.
CCVT promotes sustainable winegrowing, but the expo stretched beyond viticulture. "We're trying to make it as broad as possible," said CCVT's program director Jill Whitacre. Seminar topics included weed control, pesticide application, labor, biodiesel and solar power, as well as viticulture-focused subjects.

Jason Melvin, director of vineyards for Estancia in Monterey County, listened intently to a session on biodiesel by Lisa Mortensen, CEO of Community Fuels, Encinitas, Calif. Melvin said there have been discussions within Constellation Brands, which owns Estancia, about moving to biodiesel in California.

Among the positives: Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel at any level; biodiesel reduces wear and tear on engines, even at a low percentage; it is clean-burning and reduces dependence on foreign oil.

A.G. Kawamura
A.G. Kawamura, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture, was keynote speaker at the Sustainable Ag Expo.
In a session on solar power, Rob Erlichman, Sunlight Electric, San Francisco, presented a case study on Honig Vineyard, which installed photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. "The economics of this are actually remarkably compelling," he said, because of tax breaks and power company subsidies. Honig paid just 23% of the retail price for the solar system, after rebates and subsidies.

In a viticulture seminar, Jim Wolpert, extension viticulturist at UC Davis, discussed vine balance and fruit thinning. Among his conclusions: Vineyards planted too densely end up with a too-crowded canopy, which can adversely affect fruit quality. Balance is best achieved, he said, by choosing the right spacing for the grape varieties and rootstocks when designing the vineyard.

Wolpert also offered what he acknowledged might be controversial findings on fruit thinning. Removing less-ripe clusters at veraison is "just automatically done now," because there's an assumption that these grapes will never catch up.

Ann Thrupp, Ph.D.
Ann Thrupp, Ph.D., is managing director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, one of almost four-dozen organizations that exhibited at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.
That may have been true when grapes were harvested at lower sugars, Wolpert said. But a 2005 test at a commercial vineyard in Napa Valley found that with extended hang time, the less-ripe clusters do catch up, at least in terms of sugar content.

Angela Gadino, a graduate student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, presented research on the use of whey as an alternative to sulfur for controlling powdery mildew. Whey, a byproduct of cheese and butter production, is costly for the dairy industry to dispose of, and its use against powdery mildew has been studied on grapes in Australia.

The exhibit floor held nearly four-dozen booths, with exhibitors ranging from vine nurseries to makers of organic fertilizers and pesticides to solar power companies and government organizations.

The next expo is scheduled for Nov. 1 and 2, 2007. For more information, visit
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